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James Duvall | April 17, 2018

Behind the Scenes of Modernizing Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Vehicle Systems Integration Facility

Remember the integrated data acquisition system  G Systems developed for Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Vehicle Systems Integration Facility (VSIF)? With more than 3000 analog, digital, and virtual channels, this highly scalable and reconfigurable system is responsible for simultaneously monitoring multiple aircraft sub-system integration tests and providing real-time data display and analysis.

After running 24/7 for 15 years and counting, it was time to upgrade the VSIF data acquisition system, and Lockheed Martin once again called upon G Systems to get the job done. Hardware and software updates are an expected part of a system’s lifecycle.


The Challenge: Operating System Migration

For this modernization effort, we had to move all of the existing data acquisition software from Windows XP to Windows 7. This included a variety of services and a tightly synchronized data acquisition methodology for multiple chassis spread across a large area with long run cycles. Another significant complicating factor to this migration was the large size and complexity of the system.

We established several primary goals to guide the planning phase:

  • The migrated system should maintain the high standard of reliability
  • Risk areas should be mitigated to minimize overall customer downtime
  • Drastic user experience changes should be avoided to ensure a smooth transition for users 

 

The Solution: Compatibility Testing and Troubleshooting

Our first priority was to identify trouble spots in advance, such as driver compatibility with Windows 7 and availability of modern drivers for older hardware. We quickly determined that a newer MXI standard would be required for operation with Windows 7. This upgrade required new PXI Chassis, however, since PXI uses modular cards for customizing the system, we were able to continue using the existing PXI data acquisition and synchronization modules without any problems.

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After the new hardware arrived and we implemented the planned software changes, G Systems built a simplified test system. The prototype system allowed us to test modifications to the software and the new PXI and MXI platforms selected during the project’s research phase. Once we completed the proof-of-concept work, the VSIF laboratory was taken offline for eight weeks, during which time the PXI chassis were replaced and new software was brought online and extensively tested.

We paid special attention to areas affected by new and updated drivers, as well as all areas relating to timing and synchronization. For example, one particular issue involved the time source used by the login server versus the data acquisition server. Originally the system was designed so that the data acquisition server would control time for the entire network. However, in the current architecture, the primary domain controller (PDC) functions as the login server and a member computer functions as the data acquisition server.

With Windows 7 and Windows Server, the PDC automatically uses the Network Time Protocol (NTP) functionality, or Internet-based time reference. Careful control of settings and network policy configuration were needed to coax the PDC (the login server) to reference a member computer (the data acquisition server) instead as its time source.

 

Conclusion: Successful Modernization

In the end, the system upgrade was completed successfully with Lockheed Martin’s stamp of approval, and the F-35 VSIF data acquisition system is back in operation.

Looking to upgrade your system? Download our Complete Guide to Managing Obsolescence to learn more about how to identify obsolescence issues early and manage them once they are identified.

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